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Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Story at-a-glance
  • Today, in the final segment of a three-part interview with best-selling author Ted Kerasote about his latest book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss the problem of homeless pets in North America and the need for shelters to transform themselves into no-kill facilities.
  • Ted also discusses three-and-a-half-year-old Pukka’s life as a healthy, athletic, free-roaming dog, and the benefits and risks of the lifestyle Ted has chosen for him.
  • Finally, Ted discusses two fascinating new projects – one he has just put the finishing touches to, and another he’s currently working on.

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with bestselling author Ted Kerasote for the final installment of our three-part interview. You can see part one here and part two here. We’re discussing Ted’s wonderful new book just out in bookstores, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

The problem of homeless pets.

One of the huge, complex topics Ted takes on in Pukka’s Promise is the “crisis” situation in North American animal shelters. I worked in a shelter as a teenager, and Ted’s treatment of the subject in his new book has caused me to view the situation in a very different light.

I asked Ted to talk about his research into how unwanted pets are handled in other parts of the world vs. in the U.S.

Ted said he’d first like to address the use of the word “crisis” to describe our homeless pet situation. While it’s true about 1.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year in the U.S., 40 years ago we were killing 20 million per year.

The point is, progress has been made, and Ted believes credit is due the organizations that have worked so hard to bring that number down so dramatically.

How dogs are cared for in Western Europe vs. North America.

As to the question of differences between how North America treats homeless animals vs. other areas of the world, Ted explained that he traveled extensively in Europe to see how the situation was handled over there. He says you don’t see stray dogs roaming all over Western Europe, as happens in some parts of the U.S.

And the assumption is that because Western Europe is so highly urbanized, it can’t have free-roaming dogs. Everyone by necessity must control his or her dog, which is why there’s no so-called pet “overpopulation” problem. But Ted says that actually, there ARE free-roaming dogs … in Hyde Park … at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris … the Villa Borghese in Rome … and the Englischer Garden in Munich. In all these places there are free-roaming, off-leash dogs running about, under the voice-control of their people, and they’re not spayed or neutered, either.

To the casual observer, this seems risky at best. After all, everyone knows how quickly a male dog can mate with a female dog, right? So, why aren’t countless unwanted puppies being killed in shelters? The answer is that in Europe, people sequester their female dogs when they’re in heat. It’s just what they do, because it’s their tradition.

The Europeans carefully manage their female dogs when they’re in season. The dogs stay at home – in the barn or the kennel. They are walked only on a leash. There’s no way you don’t know when your female dog is being mounted by a male dog, if she’s at the end of a four foot leash and you’re holding the other end.

Ted explained that like most Americans, prior to his fact-finding trip to Europe, he didn’t really comprehend that there’s a way to have intact dogs and not have litter after litter of puppies.

Ted further explained that according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is number 27 out of 31 countries with respect to overall poverty and the amount of social justice its citizens enjoy. In Scandinavia, for example, there are no dogs killed in animal shelters. They have a very secure social services network that takes care of citizens “from cradle to grave.” Of course, taxes are high, but everyone’s taken care of, including pets.

By contrast, in the U.S., most dogs are killed in counties with low median incomes. It’s absolutely true that you can’t determine the number of dogs killed in a shelter by the amount of money per capita that is spent in that shelter. Some shelters spend $6 per capita and kill a lot of dogs. Others spend $1.50 per capita and don’t kill that many dogs. But it’s also true that for the most part, poor communities kill more dogs in their shelters.

No-kill solutions every shelter can (and should) embrace.

So the question becomes, how can we help the shelter system work better? Better social services across the board might help. Eliminating poverty might help. Those are long-term goals. Ted says that in the meantime, there are many people working on helping shelters operate better. There’s the No Kill Advocacy Center, whose solution involves hiring compassionate shelter directors who are committed to implementing ideas that have worked all over the country to reduce the number of shelter deaths.

Some of those ideas include keeping shelters open at least one day on the weekend. Keep them open in the evening – employed people aren’t available to come see adoptable animals during the workday. Implement a foster care program to reduce the number of kittens and puppies who are killed. Send the little ones out to foster families so they can grow up to be adoptable pets.

Other ideas include partnering with local pet stores to stop selling purebred dogs from breeders and instead feature shelter pets ready for adoption. The stores make money, a percentage goes to the shelters, and the animals find homes. It’s a win for everyone.

Another idea is to do outreach programs where the shelter takes adoptable pets to places like PetSmart and Petco for adoption events. The shelters that have implemented these techniques have low kill rates. But according to Ted’s research, many, many more shelters need to adopt these ideas.

Ted also mentioned Maddie’s Fund, which helps shelters and animal welfare organizations that are trying to reduce the kill rate. Maddie’s Fund sponsors a massive ad campaign, The Shelter Pet Project, to convince prospective pet owners to adopt a shelter animal. In addition, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, told Ted that ”a no-kill nation must be one of the greatest aspirations of this organization.” But according to Nathan Winograd, the head of the No Kill Advocacy Center, out of 3,500 shelters across the country, only about 200 have become no-kill, meaning 90 percent of the dogs and cats who come into the shelter are adopted, fostered, or find other suitable living arrangements.

Ted believes that ever so slowly, we are working on the problem of homeless pets. In my opinion, it boils down to how committed and passionate each shelter is to becoming a no-kill facility.

Pukka’s life as a young, athletic, free-roaming dog.

Next I wanted Ted to talk about the role of genetics in helping dogs live healthier lives, and specifically, how he has applied the principles of his research to his own dog, Pukka, who is now almost four.

I asked Ted if he has encountered any challenges with Pukka’s health he wasn’t expecting. Ted said that overall, Pukka is a vibrant, thriving dog, who according Ted, just happens to beat himself up a lot – he’s hard on his body. He’ll jump off something, and the next day he won’t be quite as fast when he runs. He’s like many young athletes in that he doesn’t know his own limits.

Ted went on to explain that when Pukka was two, he almost died from a self-inflicted wound. He was running with a stick in his mouth, and he jammed it into the ground going full tilt. The stick broke and its jagged end pierced his tongue, severing his sublingual artery. Pukka came into the house gushing arterial blood.

Ted got the dog in his car and drove about a hundred miles an hour to the animal hospital in Jackson, Wyoming. He had stuffed a dishtowel in Pukka’s mouth, but he was still spraying blood all over the car. At the animal hospital, the vet staff clamped off the artery, but they had some initial difficulty finding the injury because there was just so much blood.

So Pukka is a healthy, athletic youngster who injures himself from time to time. Other than that, what worries Ted most is Pukka’s potential exposure to chemicals in the area where they live. Grand Teton National Park and Teton County are sprayed with chemicals every spring to control spotted knapweed. During those times, Pukka is confined to the house and walked under Ted’s supervision, even though all the literature on those sprays claims they are non-toxic.

Ted believes that Pukka, like most dogs, was exposed to many potentially harmful toxins as a puppy, for example, by chewing on dog toys. And he’s exposed to environmental pollutants just as we all are. Ted explained that he’s tried to create a non-toxic house, but Pukka also roams around the village where they live, so it’s impossible to say what he might be exposed to.

People say to Ted, “You should fence Pukka. You should lock him up.” But for Ted, that’s not an option. He’s willing to assume certain risks so that Pukka can live as a free-roaming dog.

Fortunately, Ted has a very unique situation in that he lives in a small village that provides an almost picture-perfect environment for dogs to live independently and free and to make their own choices. Of course, not all of us are fortunate enough to have such an amazing living arrangement.

Ted explained that there are nonetheless risks associated with living where he does, and they are unusual, for instance, grizzly bears … mountain lions … and wolves, the wolves posing the greatest threat to dogs in northwestern Wyoming since wolves will kill domestic dogs. They consider them interlopers in their territory. When Ted and Pukka are hiking during the summer months, or mountain bike riding, Pukka is often a half-mile ahead, doing his thing. If he runs into a pack of wolves, it could be the end of him. But Ted explained that he’s willing to take those risks so Pukka can have his freedom.

What Ted is doing now.

Ted has put the last five years of his life, heart and soul into researching and writing Pukka’s Promise. Now that it’s out in bookstores, I asked Ted what’s next. He responded that he breathed about a five-minute sigh of relief after he finished the book, and then he went back to one he started years ago, before he met Merle, about a young jaguar named Jorge, who lives in Central America. He’s just putting the finishing touches on it now. The title is The Jaguar Who Ran.

As Ted’s story goes, Jorge the jaguar doesn’t like where he was born, because he can’t run in the jungle. He’s always running into trees and slipping in the mud. His mother tells him, “Listen, jaguars slink and crouch and hide. They don’t run.” Jorge responds, “But dad ran when he went up to the land of the Still Star,” which is what the jaguars call northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Jorge wants to run. So he goes to the land of the Still Star and gets into loads of trouble, but manages to persevere. It’s a story for all of us who dream of living a life different from that of our families and cultures.

Ted said he’s also working on a book about street dog management in developing areas of the world, where extermination has traditionally been used to reduce the incidence of rabies transmitted to people. This has not worked. Nor can adoption work since people in such places don’t have enough money to adopt and care for a dog. Since the 1990s a different approach has been tried. It was pioneered in India. Street dogs are captured, sterilized, vaccinated, and then released in the exact location where they were captured. This strategy has been very successful and has reduced both the number of street dogs without harming them, while also reducing the incidence of rabies transmitted to people.

Ted explained that he has met some very interesting veterinarians doing this kind of work all over the world. He thought their story would make a good book and might be applicable to some extent here in the U.S. because we also have a large stray dog problem in some areas. Depending on whose numbers you believe, there are 5,000 to 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit. There are stray dogs in Watts, in Baltimore, St. Louis, and on Indian reservations. The Navajo reservation is home to a couple hundred thousand stray dogs.

What typically happens is we capture these dogs, put them in shelters, and kill the majority of them. Ted wonders if it might not be a better idea to capture them, sterilize and vaccinate them, and turn them loose again – especially if they’re healthy.

My sincere thanks to Ted!

I want to thank Ted Kerasote for joining me for this three-part interview.

I’m very excited about the release of his new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, and I’m so thankful I was able to get an advance copy to read. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I know our listeners and readers here today will as well.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry … you’ll be informed and inspired by Pukka’s Promise.

Related:

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

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February 18, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Story at-a-glance
  • This is part one of a brand new, three-part interview Dr. Becker conducted with bestselling author Ted Kerasote, whose most well known work is Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.
  • In this new interview series, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss his latest book, which goes on sale this week, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs (Pukka was introduced to readers in Ted’s 2010 book, Pukka: The Pup After Merle.)
  • Today’s fascinating conversation covers the origins of Pukka’s Promise and the vast amount of worldwide research Ted conducted for the book.
  • Ted and Dr. Becker also discuss in some detail his chapter on animal shelters and how it came to be included in the book, as well as the challenges of researching and writing about the very touchy topic of canine nutrition. Ted discusses Pukka’s diet and how it differs from what he fed Merle.
  • They also talk about how Ted eventually moved on after Merle’s death to find Pukka … the ways in which the two dogs are different … and how Ted achieved his goal of creating a freethinking, self-actualized dog in Pukka.

Video: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs – Part 1

By Dr. Becker:

Today I have a very special interview guest. He’s Ted Kerasote, the bestselling author of a wonderful book I know many of you have read or heard about called Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

In addition to Merle’s Door, Ted has written several other books including Bloodties, Heart of Home, Out There, and Pukka: The Pup After Merle.

Ted’s latest book, which went on sale yesterday and is sure to be another bestseller, is called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

I was able to get an early copy of Pukka’s Promise, and this is a really fascinating book. I encourage all of you who are watching, listening or reading here today to pick up a copy.

The origin of Pukka’s Promise.

I was aware of Ted’s latest book endeavor because we spoke about it during our discussion last year.

I asked Ted to talk about how he came to the decision to write Pukka’s Promise. He explained he was on a book tour for Merle’s Door, sitting in his hotel room in Monroe, Louisiana on a rainy afternoon. As he read through emails from readers, he realized he was receiving hundreds of notes from people asking questions about why their dogs died so young. “Why did my dog die of cancer at three … four …. five years of age?” “Why did four out of my five Golden Retrievers die of cancer?”

And Ted began to wonder, “Well, why DO dogs die so young? Why did Merle die of cancer? And Brower? And Pearly?” (These were some of Merle’s old friends.) So he started doing some of his first research for the book sitting in that hotel room. Pretty soon, it became clear to him there are really just a handful of reasons – seven, to be exact – to explain why dogs die young.

One reason is they’re related to wolves, and wolves are a short-lived species of animal. He explains this in more detail in his new book.

Another reason is we breed dogs not for longevity, but for how they look. In addition, many dogs are inbred, which increases the incidence of genetically transmitted diseases.

And then there’s nutrition, which I talk about extensively here at Mercola Healthy Pets.

Environmental pollution is another factor that negatively affects dogs even more than people, because dogs have smaller bodies.

Vaccinations are another influence. Dogs get many, many more vaccinations than humans do.

As he compiled the list in his head, Ted realized, “Gosh, I think there’s a book here.” He began to jot down some notes, and suddenly experienced a sort of flash that Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov talked about – an author sees the entirety of his book in a nanosecond, in a supernova flash of inspiration.

Ted realized it was time to get another dog, and the new dog would be a central character in the new book. And he would need to raise this new dog according to the healthier principles he was learning through his research.

Five years later, he finished the book we’re talking about today, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

The writing of Pukka’s Promise takes Ted all over the world.

Next I asked Ted to talk about the incredible amount of information gathering he did for the book. He flew around the world meeting and talking with a very diverse group of fascinating people.

Ted responded that one of the key people he met was Dr. Bruce Fogle, a veterinarian in London who is also the author of many books on dogs. Fogle graciously introduced Ted to others in the dog world, including veterinarian Dr. Åke Hedhammar of the Swedish University at Uppsala. Åke works with the Swedish Kennel Club and has been instrumental in helping them put more rigorous certifications in place in that country.

Åke Hedhammar’s work led Ted to Wayne Cavanaugh, the head of the United Kennel Club in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Cavanaugh is in the process of revising breed standards to place more emphasis on the health of dogs.

Ted also mentioned Dr. Greg Ogilvie of Carlsbad, California, a canine oncologist who has some very interesting ideas about nutrition and cancer prevention. And he was also kind enough to say that I, too, have been instrumental in helping his research for the book. Over the years, Ted and I have discussed a wide range of topics about canine health, including the implications of spaying and neutering, diet and nutrition, and natural ways to raise our dogs.

I also introduced Ted to Dr. Jack Oliver at the University of Tennessee, who sadly passed away in 2011. Dr. Oliver was one of my mentors, and instrumental in connecting the dots between spaying/neutering and its effect on the endocrine system.

Chapter 19 of Pukka’s Promise: “Shelters to Sanctuaries”

One of my favorite chapters in Pukka’s Promise is titled “Shelters to Sanctuaries.” I asked Ted why he decided to include the subject of shelters in his book.

He explained that a couple years into writing the book, it occurred to him that in order to fully discuss why dogs die young in the U.S., he needed to address a key factor – killing healthy dogs in animal shelters. We kill 1.5 million dogs in this country every year. As Ted puts it, “If you’re a dog and you end up in the shelter system, your chances of dying young are high.” So he knew he couldn’t write a book about canine mortality without including the shameful number of healthy animals killed in shelters every day in this country.

In fact, according to Ted this was one of the reasons the book was not released in October 2010, as originally scheduled. He needed extra time to research the shelter chapters, which took him not only across the U.S., but also to Europe, Russia and India to see how other cultures deal with homeless dogs – or how they resolved the problem, as countries in Europe have.

Ted made some really interesting discoveries through his shelter research. I have a background in the traditional shelter system, and many people – including veterinarians – don’t realize we could turn the horrific situation in this country around like other countries have. But it takes insight, planning, and forethought of the kind Ted discusses in Pukka’s Promise. So I’m very excited about that particular chapter in his book.

Ted explained that the hardest chapter to write – and the hardest day he spent during the writing of the book – was the day he spent at a shelter in Los Angeles. He watched so many dogs being killed and could do nothing about it. He did bring one dog out of the shelter, Chance.

Many people who work in shelters face the same thing every day, and our hearts go out to them. Ted expressed that he could never do that job. I explained that I actually did that job. I became a certified euthanasia technician at the age of 17. Ultimately I had to give it up, because in order to be involved in animal welfare the rest of my life, which was my plan, I had to get out of that role while I still had some emotional energy – before I completely burned out. It’s an overwhelmingly difficult job to do.

The hardest chapters to write? The ones on canine nutrition …

Ted explained the hardest chapter to write by far was the chapter on nutrition. In fact, it is now four chapters!

There were many challenges Ted faced as he talked with well-meaning people on all sides of the pet diet debate. There were those who said, “This is what you have to believe. Dogs can eat kibble. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

And then there were people like me saying, “That’s nonsense. Dogs were not designed to eat corn. They need raw food and vegetables.”

Ted was faced with trying to sort all that out without a single scientific study having ever been done comparing genetically similar dogs, one on a grain-free diet and one on a kibble diet.

There are no studies to turn to and say, “Ah, this question has been answered!” So he had to look at lots of peripheral evidence to reach his own conclusions about the best way to feed dogs. He visited food renderers and dog food manufacturing facilities; he talked to people like me and people in the pet food industry. Ted believes he came to an eventual conclusion that will help people make better decisions about how they can feed their dogs.

Unfortunately, one of the great difficulties is that many people would love to feed their dogs better food, but they simply can’t afford to and there’s no way around that. If you want to feed your dog – especially a large dog – frozen raw food that’s organic and from free-range animals, it’s hugely expensive.

Ted says that through his vast research on the subject, he has found kibbles that are convenient, made without grain or preservatives that cost about $500 a year to feed a 70-pound dog. He says that’s not too bad – only a little over twice the amount most U.S. households spend to feed their dogs.

Creating a diet for Pukka.

Next I asked Ted to talk about how he fed Merle vs. how he feeds Pukka. He explained that through his research, he learned he would need to feed his new dog differently. He was not happy with how he’d fed Merle, and he goes into detail in the book.

When he brought Merle home from Utah, he fed him a corn-based kibble. And Merle started itching. He experimented with changing his diet, and the itching finally disappeared when he transitioned Merle to a primarily meat-based diet.

Throughout Merle’s life, Ted supplemented his regular diet with elk, antelope, duck, salmon and grouse. As he points out, Merle was too big to be fed an exclusive diet of wild game – hunters can’t legally kill that much meat. As he discusses in the new book, it would take nine elk to feed Pukka for a year, since he eats about 1,300 pounds of meat and bones in a 12-month period.

So Ted had to come up with a different plan. He went to a frozen raw diet containing mostly organic ingredients, free-range livestock, organ meats and veggies. That’s Pukka’s main source of nutrition, along with dried elk chips (a commercial brand) and a high quality commercial kibble that contains whole meats and no grains. He doesn’t eat that very often – just as needed — like when Ted takes Pukka backpacking. Pukka carries his own food, and when they are days into a backpacking trip, it’s nice to have dried elk chips and some kibble. That way, Pukka can carry enough food to feed himself on the trip.

Ted also supplements Pukka’s diet with elk, bison, antelope and fresh vegetables. In fact, one of Pukka’s favorite meals is ground elk, including the heart, liver and lungs, cauliflower, broccoli and kale (all finely chopped), a raw egg, and an elk rib laid on top!

Does that not sound like most dogs’ perfect fantasy meal right there?

Backtracking a bit … how Ted moved on after Merle’s death to find Pukka.

Deciding the right time to get another pet after one has passed is an intensely personal decision. In my case, I waited almost a year and a half, even though I’m sure it seemed odd to many of my veterinary clients that I didn’t have a dog during that period. I was moving through my own mourning process. My dog had been so incredibly special to me that I couldn’t imagine ever loving another dog so much.

In Ted’s case, five years passed between Merle’s death and Pukka’s arrival in his life. As he explains it, after Merle died, Ted felt he still had a dog for years – it was Merle in spirit form. He could still see Merle sitting beside him as he wrote … still see him with that look on his face that said, “Hey, isn’t it time to go for a ski?” … he could still see Merle’s head right next to his own while driving his car.

(I actually think Ted has another book about Merle in him – one that tells the story of his enduring spirit.)

Ted says many of his friends asked him why he wasn’t getting a new dog. They told him he’d be over his mourning if he got a new dog. And he answered them with, “I don’t want to be over my mourning.”

Ted was writing Merle’s biography and wanted him here so he could “render him in every loving detail.” Since his goal was to write Merle’s memoir, he didn’t want another dog diluting his memories of Merle. “I wanted to mourn and grieve him appropriately for being, at that point, the great love in my life – the great canine love,” Ted said.

When he was at last ready to begin looking for a new dog, many people said, “Oh, just go down to the shelter and get a dog.” But to Ted, 10 or 15 years seemed like a long time to spend with a companion you’re not really passionate about. He said he finds it fascinating that for many people, almost any dog will do.

And God bless them! I think that’s awesome!

Ted agreed, but at the same time, he gets many letters from people who don’t put much thought into a companion animal and then wind up disappointed. And to those people he’d like to say, “Well, maybe you should have spent a little more time looking.” And he didn’t want to find himself in that situation.

Ted’s search for Pukka.

Ted checked literally dozens of shelters for his new dog. Finally he conceded that he wasn’t going to find a dog at a shelter that met his needs, which were quite specific. He wanted a dog who could do the things Merle had done with him. He didn’t want a dog he had to leave home. Ted spends a lot of time outdoors and he wanted a dog who could ski, swim rivers and was comfortable in rugged terrain.

He also wanted a dog who could hunt with him. Ted explained that hunting is a way for him to get some of his food from the land on which he lives – for him, it’s a spiritual connection to the land. And he wanted a dog who could happily participate in those adventures. So there were size constraints. One can’t take a very small dog into snow that’s four feet deep, for example.

So eventually, Ted wound up with breeders. And by that time, he knew he also wanted an intact dog. That was another reason a shelter dog wouldn’t work – in most cases, and for very good reason, those dogs must be sterilized before they go home with their new families. Ted wanted to be able to describe in his new book, and perhaps subsequent books, the experience of life with an intact male dog – especially since very few people have the opportunity to live with an intact dog anymore.

This makes sense for Ted and his dog, but of course, not for everyone. Since Ted is documenting his life with Pukka and wants to give him a lifestyle conducive to longevity, leaving the dog intact reduces the health risks linked to neutering. (There are no intact female dogs in the tiny community where Ted lives, so Pukka has no opportunity to mate and reproduce.)

In Pukka’s Promise, Ted discusses in detail his journey to find the right breeder.

How Pukka is different from Merle.

I asked Ted what differences he has noticed between Merle and Pukka. He responded that the big difference is Pukka is growing up with a “silver bowl” in front of him — he has the best of everything.

Merle, on the other hand, had a hardscrabble life before he found Ted. And these two very different lifestyles created two different personalities. As Ted explained, Merle was the ultimate survivor dog, but he was always somewhat wary.

Pukka, who is growing up with lots of care and love, didn’t experience the same school of hard knocks Merle survived.

Pukka doesn’t like to roam as much as Merle did, even though he has the same access to a dog door. He’s very happy to stay home and wait till Ted invites him to go do something.

Ted also says Merle sang, and he thinks it’s because the dog grew up with coyotes. Pukka very rarely howls or sings.

Pukka is far more affectionate and cuddly than Merle was. Merle seemed to be saying, “Hey, man, I don’t have time for this!” He liked hanging out with Ted, but not ON Ted, whereas Pukka wants to sleep in Ted’s bed, preferably in his arms!

Pukka likes the warmth and comfort of home when it’s 20 degrees outside, but Merle would be out there anyway, exploring.

Pukka has no fear of guns. Merle didn’t like them; he had been shot in his life before Ted. Pukka loves hunting birds. Merle only liked hunting elk.

And Merle was neutered; Pukka is not. In Pukka’s Promise, Ted discusses some of the normal behaviors of an intact dog that most of us are not accustomed to seeing or dealing with.

Raising a freethinking self-actualized dog.

I asked Ted if he thinks he’s accomplished his goal of creating a freethinking self-actualized dog in Pukka. Ted thinks he has, as much as possible without subjecting Pukka to the things Merle endured before he came to live with Ted. He says Pukka makes a lot of his own decisions and is able to entertain himself extremely well. If Ted doesn’t have time to play with him, Pukka will find a ball and throw it against the wall, or find a stick and throw it up in the air. Ted helped Pukka learn how to amuse himself when he was a puppy.

Ted worked with Pukka a lot as a puppy to help him grow into a balanced, stable, confident dog. He spent a lot of time very intentionally creating the fabulous dog Pukka is today.

Ted noted that one of the things that really struck him about both Merle and Pukka is how long it takes dogs to learn certain things. He believes dog owners who haven’t spent that time and energy don’t realize what it takes. He thinks we tend to expect miracles from our dogs, when it actually often takes countless repetitions to get a dog to the point of understanding what you want from him. We are, after all, speaking two different languages, both verbally and conceptually.

In addition, a human’s view of the world is very different from a dog’s. Just helping a dog understand the words we use takes time – lots of time – on a daily basis. And, of course, they forget, so you get up the next day and do it all over again until eventually, much or most of it “sticks.”

Ted says if he could give one piece of advice to dog owners, it would be to exercise more patience with their pets. Cut your dog more slack. He’s desperately trying to please you – he just doesn’t always understand exactly what you want from him. And as Ted points out, timing is crucial. We often unintentionally give our dogs a cue we didn’t mean to send.

That’s why Ted believes in clicker training. He uses a clicker with Pukka, because it gives the dog the cue at the precise instant and dramatically reduces opportunities for miscommunication between man and dog. Ted gives kudos to Karen Pryor and her clicker training.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of my 3-part

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , | 10 Comments

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

"If I Should Die Before My Dog – "

We prepare for the what-if’s in our lives by establishing what would be needed in the event of our death or inability to care for our children. We buy insurance against the possibilities of loss to our cars, homes, valuables. We buy health and life insurance, even pet health insurance. But what about our pet’s needs if something happens to us? The book, "If I Should Die Before My Dog – " is an excellent tool in careful and complete considerations for your dog.

Now, I’m not very good when it comes to the subject of dying. In fact, I’m a wreck. I once took a "Death and Dying" course as part of my psychology major. I flunked the class because I stopped going to it; I just couldn’t handle all that talk about dying! But I’ve learned over the years that there are some issues we must face, make decisions about and prepare for, whether we’re comfortable or not.

I have four children, now all grown, and I’ve recently updated my estate planning documents. Should I pass away or become unable to handle my affairs, arrangements have been made. When the kids were small I had plans in place, and included contingencies for their care by trusted people who knew them well.

But my pets? Much less so. Even for the famous pets that have made the news because of huge sums of inheritance left in their humans’ wills for the pets themselves, the need for their emotional well-being still exists. Each dog is a unique individual, with needs, desires, even fears that only you may know about.

Having worked with cats that were either rescued or relinquished, I saw firsthand the sadness, confusion, even depression these precious animals experienced. Ask anyone who spends time with these pets, they’ll tell you the same. It’s not just humans who feel a great loss when they lose those they’ve had a close bond with. It breaks my heart to imagine that might be the scenario for my beloved pets one day.

As a foster mom, I know the importance of knowing the details of a pet’s preferences, needs, quirks, likes and dislikes, known vocabulary. I’ve seen how it has helped provide for the best fit for both pet and adoptive family, and afforded the most consistency for the pet in such a time of great upheaval in its life.

My copy of "If I Should Die Before My Dog – " is going to go right with the paperwork that entails my will and other legal documents that have been prepared in the event of my passing or inability to manage things. Having said that, I’m now going to go get the tissues my leaky eyes have sorely needed while reading through and filling out the book.

While no one will ever take the place of you in your pet’s life, at least whoever takes over for you will have the information needed to make daily life as comfortable as possible. This book really is an important part of being a pet parent and providing the best for your dog.

A Dog Lovers lasting guide…….A beautifully illustrated interactive book that one fills in all of the information about their dogs life in the event they can no longer care for them to help ensure your pets are taken care of.

A thought provoking check list for dog lovers, who unfortunately and with much sadness can no longer take care of their dog.

This book will assist those who want to prepare for their dogs future in an easy to use format that will guide them through the process of telling the "story" of their dogs life, for their pets "Next Guardian".

None of us can predict the future, but in the event situations arise such as death, health impairment or left with no other choice but to give them up, this book will be there to assist your beloved pet with the transition from one home to another. 

Author photo.jpg

About the Authors – Joe and Cathy Connolly

Joe and Cathy Connolly have spent a lifetime owning, training and caring for dogs. Cathy grew up with a Collie breeder, dog groomer and dog handler while attending many different dog shows and eventually went on to work with other breeders as she grew older. They live in beautiful Northern Michigan with their 3 furry four legged children, one large dog, one small dog and the entire family is supervised by one bossy calico cat.

 

Related:

Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You

In Pets We Trust

Also see:  Every Dog’s Legal Guide

While providing  for your pets after you are gone, good nutrition and some supplements are equally important to care for them now and for their longevity: StemPet and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

‘Nubs the Dog: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle’

Major Brian Dennis and Nubs the Dog today.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

When Major Brian Dennis of the United States Marine Corps met a wild stray dog with shorn ears while serving in Iraq, he had no idea of the bond they would form, leading to seismic changes in both their lives. “The general theme of the story of Nubs is that if you’re kind to someone, they’ll never forget you — whether it be person or animal,” Dennis tells Paw Nation.

In October 2007, Dennis and his team of 11 men were in Iraq patrolling the Syrian border. One day, as his team arrived at a border fort, they encountered a pack of stray dogs — not uncommon in the barren, rocky desert that was home to wolves and wild dogs.

“We all got out of the Humvee and I started working when this dog came running up,” recalls Dennis. “I said, ‘Hey buddy’ and bent down to pet him.” Dennis noticed the dog’s ears had been cut. “I said, ‘You got little nubs for ears.'” The name stuck. The dog whose ears had been shorn off as a puppy by an Iraqi soldier (to make the dog “look tougher,” Dennis says) became known as Nubs.

Dennis fed Nubs scraps from his field rations, including bits of ham and frosted strawberry Pop Tarts. “I didn’t think he’d eat the Pop Tart, but he did,” says Dennis.

At night, Nubs accompanied the men on night patrols. “I’d get up in the middle of the night to walk the perimeter with my weapon and Nubs would get up and walk next to me like he was doing guard duty,” says Dennis.

The next day, Dennis said goodbye to Nubs, but he didn’t forget about the dog. He began mentioning Nubs in emails he wrote to friends and family back home. “I found a dog in the desert,” Dennis wrote in an email in October 2007. “I call him Nubs. We clicked right away. He flips on his back and makes me rub his stomach.”

“Every couple of weeks, we’d go back to the border fort and I’d see Nubs every time,” says Dennis. “Each time, he followed us around a little more.” And every time the men rumbled away in their Humvees, Nubs would run after them. “We’re going forty miles an hour and he’d be right next to the Humvee,” says Dennis. “He’s a crazy fast dog. Eventually, he’d wear out, fall behind and disappear in the dust.”

On one trip to the border fort in December 2007, Dennis found Nubs was badly wounded in his left side where he’d been stabbed with a screwdriver. “The wound was infected and full of pus,” Dennis recalls. “We pulled out our battle kits and poured antiseptic on his wound and force fed him some antibiotics wrapped in peanut butter.” That night, Nubs was in so much pain that he refused food and water and slept standing up because he couldn’t lay down. The next morning, Nubs seemed better. Dennis and his team left again, but he thought about Nubs the entire time, hoping the dog was still alive.

Excerpt, “Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle,”
Little, Brown for Young Readers

Two weeks later, when Dennis and his team returned, he found Nubs alive and well. “I had patched him up and that seemed to be a turning point in how he viewed me,” says Dennis. This time, when Dennis and his team left the fort, Nubs followed. Though the dog lost sight of the Humvees, he never gave up. For two days, Nubs endured freezing temperatures and packs of wild dogs and wolves, eventually finding his way to Dennis at a camp an incredible 70 miles south near the Jordanian border.

“There he was, all beaten and chewed up,” says Dennis. “I knew immediately that Nubs had crossed through several dog territories and fought and ran, and fought and ran,” says Dennis. The dog jumped on Dennis, licking his face.

Most of the 80 men at the camp welcomed Nubs, even building him a doghouse. But a couple of soldiers complained, leading Dennis’ superiors to order him to get rid of the dog. With his hand forced, Dennis decided that the only thing to do was bring Nubs to America. He began coordinating Nubs’ rescue effort. Friends and family in the States helped, raising the $5,000 it would cost to transport Nubs overseas.

Finally, it was all arranged. Nubs was handed over to volunteers in Jordan, who looked after the dog and sent him onto to Chicago, then San Diego, where Dennis’ friends waited to pick him up. Nubs lived with Dennis’ friends and began getting trained by local dog trainer Graham Bloem of the Snug Pet Resort. “I focused on basic obedience and socializing him with dogs, people and the environment,” says Bloem.

A month later, Dennis finished his deployment in Iraq and returned home to San Diego, where he immediately boarded a bus to Camp Pendleton to be reunited with Nubs. “I was worried he wouldn’t remember me,” says Dennis. But he needn’t have worried. “Nubs went crazy,” recalls Dennis. “He was jumping up on me, licking my head.”

Dennis’ experience with Nubs led to a children’s picture book, called “Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle,” published by Little, Brown for Young Readers. They have appeared on the Today Show and will be appearing on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien on Monday.

Was it destiny that Dennis met Nubs and brought him to America? “I don’t know about that,” says Dennis. “It’s been a strange phenomenon. It’s been a blessing. I get drawings mailed to me that children have drawn of Nubs with his ears cut off. It makes me laugh.”

by Helena Sung – PawNation Nov 3rd 2009 @ 6:00PM
Nubbs:  The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle

Great Gift for Any Child, Veteran and Animal Lover!!

Order Today: Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle

Related:

‘Dogs Have The Intelligence of a Human Toddler’

“Tails of Love”

Military Punishment for Dog Killer, Abuser a Joke! No Justice! VIDEO

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Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

Tails of Love – Book

Checkout:  Dogwise, All Things Dog! – 2000+ Books and Doggie Goodies

Posted:  Just One More Pet

November 11, 2009 Posted by | animal abuse, animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rescues, animals, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Pet Adoption, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

‘Dogs Have The Intelligence of a Human Toddler’

Most (or the average) dog understands 165 words and gestures+ and 20 to 40 commands, but many can understand a lot more!  The same article states that even though most dogs have the cognitive ability of 2 to 2.5-year-olds, their social consciousness—an awareness of people, their ranking within the family and such—is as high as an adolescent or teenager.  It also seems that dogs and apes have some of the same basic emotions such as fear, anger, disgust and pleasure and are able to deceive.

dog-reading

Our canine friends are smart! Research has shown that most dogs understand 165 words or gestures, can add up to five, and that some dogs learn how to deceive their owners. It is a known fact that children don’t develop such a habit until much later.  Some “super dogs” can even learn up to 250 words, a capability found only among humans and language learning apes.

Math, for those young or old, has been a sore point for many but scientists have found out through experimentation that dogs can understand simple math. TheStar.com (2009) found this out by evaluating dogs’ confusion “after they watched a specific number of treats get dropped behind a screen, then discovered that the actual number of treats was more or less than expected.”  Canines can count up to 5 and spot errors in simple arithmetic computations.

Quoting four studies on spatial problem solving abilities of dogs, Coren said the canines can understand the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment like fastest way to find a favorite chair and how to operate simple machines.

It is also interesting to note that dogs have a sense of fairness but not equity. In TheStar.com (2009) Stanley Coren, an expert on dog behavior and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia states: “when researchers had two dogs perform simple tasks but only rewarded one, the unrewarded dog lost interest in participating.” However, he goes on to say that when one of the dogs is fed a “superior” treat, both stayed engaged, equally.

Again, The Star.com (2009) Professor Stanley Coren also states that dogs understand at least 20-40 commands or more.

The same article states that even though most dogs have the cognitive ability of 2 year olds, their social consciousness—an awareness of people, their ranking within the family and such—is as high as an adolescent or teenager. In other words, they are very interested in who is moving on, who is sleeping with whom and how others around them are being treated—and where they fit in.

Weber (2009) suggest that dogs and apes have some of the same basic emotions such as fear, anger, disgust and pleasure. But he also noted both animal groups are missing some of the more complex, learned emotions such as guilt. These kinds of emotions are “learned” and require more in-depth thinking.

What is interesting to any dog owner is that because dogs have been domesticated for so long, they can understand words and gestures. I can remember the many times when we owned a collie named Lady, how she would react to certain phrases and gestures such as, and “Are you hungry?” “Time to go potty,” and “Lady, what have you done?” and my favorite, “Lady, time for a bath.”

Most dogs also know and understand when we’re feeling down, when we’re ill or when we’re happy and respond appropriately. Because they have been domesticated for so long, they instinctively can spot our emotions and then respond to help us out.

Researchers have also found that intelligence seems to vary according to breeds, generally, but there is always an exception.

Hounds and terriers are less intelligent, while retrievers, border collies and herding dogs are more intelligent. And, it seems that smart dogs need more attention; much like children who are smarter and always seeking the attention and approval of their parents, siblings and friends.

The intelligence of canines is dependent on various factors including their breed, environment around them, training imparted by their handlers, and like with humans an occassional unexplainable intelligence factor, he said.

“Border Collies are number one; poodles are second followed by German Shepherds. Fourth on the list is Golden Retrievers; fifth Doberman; sixth Shetland Sheepdogs and finally Labrador retrievers,” the canine scientist said.

“There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems) and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’),” he said.  But as all parent know there is a lot more that goes into their children’s (2-legged or 4-legged) intelligence and sometimes the standard means of measurement do not tell the whole story.

Professor Stanley Coren also suggests that most dogs are capable of deceiving.  And anyone who owns or has owned a dog, knows that there are times when they do something wrong, they will go to great lengths to hide the guilty deed such as hiding a broken object, running away from the scene of a crime, etc.

Dogs can do many things that their wild relatives, such as the wolf, cannot do and this is because of their close association with humans; that bonding and domestication from being around us so long.

“Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought,” the researcher from the University of British Columbia in Canada said at the 117th annual convention of American Psychological Association in Toronto on Saturday.

The American Psychological Association has more than 1.5 lakh members of psychologists, researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students.

Professor Coren, canine researcher, who authored the book ‘How Dogs Think‘ said, “Canines use this intelligence to intentionally deceive their fellow dogs and people to earn their treats.  During a play the canines are as successful in deceiving humans as we are in deceiving them.”

And finally there are abilities like sensing a long list of illnesses and even death, by both dogs and cats, that we are just learning about; things humans cannot do.  So judgeing their level of intelligence by ours may not be totally fair either.

References:
The Star.com (2009).Rover’s as smart as the average tot. Retrieved August 11, 2009
from: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/678720
Weber, B. (2009) Pooches, people have more in common than previously thought: scientist.

By: Ask Marion/Just One More Pet


How Dogs Think How To Speak Dog

GoD and DoG

August 16, 2009 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet and Animal Training, Pets, Success Stories, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments